It used to be called ‘adult onset diabetes’ and before 2002, Type 2 diabetes was unknown in children in the UK. By 2010, it was believe as many as 1,400 children in the UK had Type 2 diabetes (and it is a growing problem). Now in Texas, USA, a three-and-a-half-year-old girl has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, possibly the youngest child known to have developed the disease.
The girl, from a Hispanic family, weighed 35kg (5st 7lbs), putting her in the heaviest 5% of children her age. She was also in the top 5% for height and body mass index (BMI), a measure of obesity.
She was diagnosed in Houston, Texas, by Dr Michael Yafi, a paediatric endocrinologist with the University of Texas. In a written presentation to the European Association for the Study of Diabetes conference in Stockholm, Yafi said she had been brought to his clinic because she was obese.
The child was suffering from excessive thirst and frequent urination, but her medical history was otherwise unremarkable. She was born at term weighing 3.2kg(7lbs). Although both her parents were obese, there was no family history of diabetes.
“Based on symptoms, physical findings of obesity and laboratory results, the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes was made,” Yafi said.
Type 2 diabetes is most commonly caused by lifestyle and a review of the family’s diet found they had “poor nutritional habits”.
Reversal of Type 2 Diabetes
There is some good news in this story.
Yafi said: “Reversal of type 2 diabetes in children is possible by early screening of obese children, early diagnosis, appropriate therapy and lifestyle modification.”
His approach with this patient was to put her on metformin, an oral drug given to people with type 2 diabetes and also to ask her family to change the types of food they most often ate and to eat smaller portions.
Yafi also encouraged the girl to be more active.
The treatment worked.
The girl lost weight and the drugs were gradually reduced over six months, at the end of which she was 75% of the weight she had been when she first arrived at the clinic. Her blood glucose levels had returned to normal and she no longer had type 2 diabetes.
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